It has been 15 years but Vidyun Goel vividly remembers the day when her parents asked her what she wanted to do with her old toys. Her father suggested her to pack all her old toys and give them away to the children in the nearby slum. She soon roped in her friends for the same and continued working towards spreading smiles among the underprivileged children. Gradually, she started realizing the impact of the toys. They were being used for information dissemination. There was an increase in attendance. The more she explored the importance of toys, she got convinced of spearheading the cause of reinforcing ‘Right to Play‘ for every child. This led to the inception of “Toy Bank”.
Starting Toy Bank with two-fold objective
Vidyun started her Toy-Bank with a two-fold objective. First was to debunk gender stereotypes and create ‘Gender Neutral Educative Toy Libraries’. Second, was to promote the idea of environmental conservation by reusing and recycling of toys to reduce the Carbon footprint.
The idea that toys are not only for leisure but also for educative purposes is still to be accepted by the people at large.
Leaving corporate job for “Toy bank”
Vidyun juggled between her full-time corporate job and Toy Bank but there came a time when she had to let go of one. The decision to give up a full-time job was a difficult one but the fact that she would be creating an impact on other peoples lives kept her motivated enough.
High Points of the journey
“There was a particular anganwadi teacher from Dewas District in Madhya Pradesh, who called to tell me that the children hadn’t seen or played with toys for the past 10 years. There was another teacher who told me that because of the creation of Toy Libraries, the dropout rates of children have fallen,” she says talking about some of the touching moments in her journey so far.
Vidyun believes that one has to be creative in dealing with roadblocks when one runs an organization. “We encounter the challenges of a continuous mass collection of toys, reaching out to potential donors and receivers, the logistics of transporting toys to the hinterlands and motivating people for long-term volunteer work.”
Vidyun and her team also conduct workshops on ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ with children to ensure that they understand the gravity of responsible consumption and how it’ll affect the environment in the long run.
“Strength and backbone of the Toy Bank are its volunteers.” -Vidyun
Toy Bank has a strong base of 100+ volunteers helping in each stage of the process like hosting collection centres, helping with logistic support, helping with networking with toy companies and publishers, conducting toy collection drives, reaching out to children, etc.
Vidyun informs us that the Toy Kits sent to the children are ‘Age –graded’ and are mapped according to the demographics, age and intellectual capacity of the child it is going to impact.
“In the past 15 years, The Toy Bank has created nearly 5000 Gender Neutral Educative Toy Libraries in 20 states across India impacting more than 5 Lakh children. In fact, discontinuation of distribution of toys to each individual child and instead create Toy Libraries also stemmed from the reason that group play develops social and leadership skills of a child,” she tells us.
Parents as a constant source of inspiration
Reminiscing about her childhood days, she says that her parents have been a constant source of inspiration. Her father would come up with innovative ideas and concretize them. She idolizes her mother for her work ethics. “Their relationship is also a perfect example of how different individuals can combine to make a great team,” she affirmed.
Who to blame for the growing environmental crisis?
“It is important that we ourselves try to put a check on our extreme consumerist behaviours. Along with that, it is also necessary, that we find ways to reduce waste. Hence, ‘Recycling Toys – Recycling Smiles!’, she shares.
Vidyun believes in the power of youth. She advises them to make themselves aware of the inequalities existing in this society.
“The only way to do that is to understand the privilege one is born with. Once, we accept that, I think we will be able to see the oppressive patterns of the society. And once we see and understand these patterns, I am sure quite a lot of us will be fighting to break these systems,” she says.
“We all need to be change-makers in the smallest possible way.” – Vidyun Goel
In the pipeline
Through Toy Bank, Vidyun Goel aspires to connect with each and every child across the country to either sensitize them to donate or to ensure that their Right To Play is reinforced.
“I believe that we will be present in all the major cities by having fully functional collection centres. I also see us receiving Logistic company support for our operations all across India. Adopting government and other grassroots schools and turning them into safe spaces of play and education for the undeserved children is something that I envisage in the coming years.”, she asserts.
Read Also: 10 Ways we Can Reduce our Carbon Footprint